After a really busy couple of weeks, this is the first moment I’ve had to reflect. As many of you know, we've been at Weyfest and then had a couple of private events. At Weyfest, we were in the main arena for the first time with our afternoon teas. We were incredibly busy and one of the things we were asked on several occasions was ‘has it been a success?’ Each time, I found this difficult to answer because, what does success actually mean? For many business owners, making a profit is a measure of success and perhaps knowing that the profit margins are sustainable over a long period of time. For me, success is different. I’ve never been a person to chase the fast profit or to feel gleeful about a bank account in the black. Yes, it adds a bit of security but, for me, success is a about a lot more than profit. In fact, if I do not feel comfortable with the service I’ve provided then the money can be an uncomfortable reminder.
At Weyfest, yes, we were busy but it really wasn’t what I would call a success. Weyfest is a great festival and the organisers work very hard to put everything together. We are definitely happy to be part of the Weyfest family and were very grateful that they gave us the opportunity to be busier in the main arena than we had been at the Old Kiln Stage. Unfortunately, with all the best intentions in the world, this arrangement just wasn’t right for us. For a start, it was too loud for us to be able to communicate with our customers and so, lots of the detail that we are well known for was lost. Also, the nature of our business is calm and relaxed and this just didn’t work with metal and rock music in the background. There were other vendors in the main arena that were far more suited to this type of stage but unfortunately, not us.
So, why have I called my blog The Good, The Bad and The Ugly? Our experience at Weyfest meant facing up to a few difficult truths. Things don’t always go well and we need to take some time to look at what went wrong and do everything we can to make it better. We have come to the stage in our business journey where we have to evaluate how we’re doing and how we want to improve what we do in the future. I call the improvements ‘the ugly’. It has become clear to me that for a business to run well we need to be very honest about what works and what doesn’t. We pride ourselves on making the experience of having afternoon tea at the blue caravan special. For this reason, we have already asked to be moved back to the Old Kiln Stage at Weyfest next year. We may not make as much money, we may not have queues of customers but we will feel a lot happier about our service, and that, for us, is success.
Another improvement we have had to make is in our afternoon tea provision. Many people have commented that our scones are the best scones they’ve ever had and our baking has so far not disappointed; however, you may be surprised to learn that our stumbling block has been sandwiches! You may be thinking ‘ that’s the easy part’. How can you get something so simple wrong?’ I agree. Sandwiches have become a massive problem for us! How many to make? How to keep the ingredients fresh? How to make them fast enough? When to make them so that they don’t go stale? What shape to cut them? The list goes on. What a palava! At Weyfest, we just didn’t have the experienced man power or the fridge storage to make as many sandwiches as were needed. We have some ideas though. Also, at our private events, we’ve either lost, yes lost, a plate of sandwiches or just misinterpreted what is meant by a round of sandwiches. It must be tiredness! Anyway, sandwiches are now on our radar. They are an important part of the afternoon tea and, I think, people look forward to those tiny sandwiches more than anything. We need to get it right! I remember watching an episode of ‘Escape to the Chateau’ where Angel hints that Dick needed vigorous training in the art of sandwich making. I feel her pain. I have to be literally standing over people to ensure that they make the sandwiches to my standard. In fact at our last tea party, I was so worried about the sandwich issue that I made enough to feed 20 people rather than the 6 requested. I even made 6 types of sandwiches to suit the vegans and meat eaters. I’ve left one of my sandwich recipes below.
So, moving forward, our next festival is Goodwood Revival. We’re in campsite H. It’s taken us over a year to find a contact at Goodwood and now we have been welcomed with open arms. We’re not in the main arena but we are testing the waters slightly from one of the campsites. We are nervous about another long weekend of work but don’t new adventures always a bring a touch of anxiety? I’m sure I’m not on my own as a person who worries endlessly weeks before change. I have just had to accept that as part of my persona. To relieve the stress a bit, we have decided to keep things simple and sell our famous scones, clotted cream and homemade jam, alongside our loose leaf teas. Keeping it simple allows us to concentrate on getting things right and bringing the service we are known for rather than stretching ourselves too far. If you’re at Goodwood from 16th to 18th September, you can find us at Campsite H, near the hotels and the Winnebagos! We’ll have our oven there so we’re happy to make our scones fresh to order.
If you’ve got this far, thank you for sticking with us and thank you if you have booked a tea with us this summer. It’s been such a learning experience for us and we’re still learning. Hope to see you all soon.
Recipe – Avocado and Pesto sandwiches
I use my thermomix to create the pesto but you can also use a food blender. I chose not to add cheese to my pesto but added nutritional yeast instead to keep it vegan.
100g fresh basil leaves (I just used a whole plant from Morrisons)
30g pine nuts
1tbsp nutritional yeast
120-150ml extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp salt
Blend all the ingredients together in a blender but add the oil a little at a time until you get the consistency you prefer. When blended, it can be used on your sandwiches or even warmed into freshly cooked pasta.
Butter fresh bread with vegan spread or butter (you can make your own vegan butter using almonds or cashews.) Slice avocado thinly on one side of the bread. Drizzle the avocado with pesto and then cover with the other slice of bread. This makes a delicious vegan sandwich.